International aid donor groups this week hosted discussions about the effectiveness of aid for LGBT rights in developing countries.

On Monday, Kaleidoscope Trust and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) hosted a panel discussion with a number of international donor companies to address LGBT human rights issues in the developing world and the role aid donors play.

The title of the event stated the main issue addressed throughout the afternoon: Can aid donors help support LGBT rights in developing countries?

Various opinions were presented on the issue and some ideas on how best to go about creating positive change.

A common consensus from the panellists was that donors and aids groups need to understand more about the cultural roots which may encourage homophobia in African countries.

Jessica Horn, a women’s rights consultant at Akiiki Consulting, talked about the overlap between women’s rights and LGBT rights in Africa. She observed the similarities between discriminatory gender policies and the dominance of hetero-normative masculinity in African cultures.

Also discussed was the need for greater emphasis on the negative effects of homophobia on the economy as a motivating factor to encourage governmental support.

Fabrice Houdart, Senior Country Officer in Maghreb for the World Bank, spoke about the tangibility and universal importance of economic strength for national governments. He said, and a number of panellists agreed, that economic data provides a more amenable avenue through which aid providers can target homophobia in developing countries.

One of the more difficult issues addressed by the panel was the problematic perception that international aid groups are practicing ‘re-colonisation.’ The provision of aid to developing countries is often seen as a means of imposing ideals from the western world onto local cultures.

One solution to this perception is for aid donors to work with local populations and grass-roots movements to pursue their agendas and protect minorities such as LGBT people, whilst understanding the needs of the people on the ground, which may differ greatly from the perceived needs from the international community.

Representatives from ODI, the World Bank, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), USAID, the Blue Diamond Society and Kaleidoscope participated in the two-session panel discussion and Q&A throughout the afternoon